A chair is a simple item, but for victims of domestic abuse a chair may be their second chance.

Since 2003, students from Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts have teamed with the Phoenix Family Advocacy Center to create awareness about domestic abuse.

Their task is simple. In groups of three, they have five weeks and $100, plus any donations they can raise, to create a chair that is symbolic in some way of the impact domestic abuse can have on a family. The chairs go on display for a month before they are auctioned off at a CHAIRity Gala to raise money for the Phoenix Family Advocacy Center, which provides assistance and support for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Lynne Orlowski, 24, who grew up in Ahwatukee Foothills and graduated from Desert Vista High School, was one of the students who designed a chair. Her group came up with the idea of "Stripped."

"We were inspired by Richard Serra's bare and vulnerable, yet strong and self-supporting pieces," Orlowski said. "This translates to the life of someone experiencing domestic violence: ‘This journey has left me stripped but my core gives me the strength to overcome this life.'

"It is about the pain and defenselessness one may feel, but by using the inner strength within yourself and the support from the FAC, this vulnerability transforms to something powerful and beautiful."

Their chair is smooth and metal with wooden arm rests. There's no excessive decoration on it, yet it stands strong and the shape makes it beautiful.

The project has taught Orlowski something she will never forget.

"Growing up in Ahwatukee, domestic violence was not something that I saw or heard about," she said. "Many individuals are oblivious to the fact that this exists or that they could fall victim to it. Perhaps there was even emotional and verbal abuse occurring in the homes of people I was associated with in school. I've learned that no matter how safe we feel in the neighborhood in which we live, domestic violence is still occurring."

Now Orlowski is happy to help spread the word about domestic abuse.

"Throughout this experience, I've learned that spreading awareness is important," Orlowski said. "Coming to the event will help shed a light on the issue of domestic violence and provide help to victims that have been through this experience. It is also a time to celebrate those who have been supported by the Phoenix Family Advocacy Center and CHAIRity."

The Gala will be at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave. All of the chairs will be auctioned off at the event.

Tickets are $135 per person. For more information, visit www.chairity.info.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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